Case Study

By Adele Thaxton-Coy
Nursing Department
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

Writing for the Journal of College Teaching and Learning, Karge, Phillips, Jessee, and McCabe (2011) report that “[w]hen students are active in their learning they are able to develop critical thinking skills, receive social support systems for the learning, and gain knowledge in an efficient way” (p. 53).

What facilitator would not want to assist their students in meeting these goals? Students need their facilitator to demonstrate the power and authority necessary to help them (1) adopt their goals (2) believe their goals are obtainable and (3) achieve their goals. However, the teaching and learning process is reciprocal and the facilitator must possess the qualities, knowledge, and determination necessary in order to gain positive results.

I will share a recent example of active learning that proved to be effective. It was the night before the last day of clinical, and my students had completed their goals for the semester. I had checked them off on mostly all of the skills they could complete under supervision and so the question became: What to do for their last day that will be challenging, educational, and fun?

I pondered over this for about a week because I did not want to do the same thing I had done in previous semesters. This particular group was certainly capable and up for a new challenge. So the night before the last day of clinical there I am at my desk pondering with a colleague and the idea of a case study comes to mind.

But what to do with it? I did not want to just give my group case studies to work on because that would be way too easy. Where would the challenge and fun be in that? Then I had my “aha” moment. Have the students create case studies!

To me, the idea sounded intriguing and stimulating. I was full of excitement and could not wait to start planning.

I had a group of eight students that I split up into two teams of four. Each team was assigned a patient from the clinical unit and their task was to complete a patient assessment, dig deep into the patient charts, and incorporate all necessary criteria requested into their case study.

One of the criteria was to create six questions for the other group to solve the case study. I had the groups decide what their objectives would be for the case study and gave them several hours to complete the process. I printed out two examples of case studies to give them an idea of what I was looking for with this assignment.

When time was up, I had each group give me a copy of their case study and the groups swapped cases with one another. The groups had 20 minutes to work on the case studies before we all reconvened as a group. I had each group present their answers and rationales,  and we discussed both cases in great detail. After each group presented, we then discussed whether the intended objectives of the case study creators were met. When I felt the need, I clarified and elaborated on additional information regarding the cases.

The students were very excited to share and discuss the cases. I was informed by all students in the group that it was a positive and rewarding experience for them that they really appreciated and enjoyed. They even used the word “fun”! All of the students in my group recommend that I continue doing this project on the last day of clinical, and with such positive outcomes, I must say I most certainly will.


Karge, B.D., Phillips, K.M., Jessee, T., & McCabe, M. (2011). Effective strategies for engaging adult learners. Journal of College Teaching & Learning, 8(12). Retrieved from


    One comment

  1. Kim Hines5 years ago

    This does work really well even in the class setting. When we flipped our curriculum and our classroom I adopted this idea for one of my classes. The students listen to lecture material prior to coming to class. When they get to class I answer questions and clarify information. I then have them break into groups where they write their own case study incorporating the concepts they had studied. They then present the case study and the rest of the class has to describe how they use the four concepts in their study. It works really well and helps provide examples of the content presented.

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